Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Think Tankers Doing Creative Open Source Research on China

Here is more from The Wire:

Ryan Fedasiuk  a research analyst at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), says that he goes to great lengths to make sure that the open sources he uses do not get burned. In a recent report, Harnessed Lightning, which reviewed 66,000 government tenders to understand the Chinese military’s use of AI, Fedasiuk’s team built a web scraper that would only operate during Chinese business hours and only from Chinese IP addresses, to make it more difficult to identify.


The piece also talks about Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation who has uncovered information about human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China.  Here is a clip on him:

Zenz became uniquely high profile starting in 2018. Despite living 6,000 miles away and only visiting Xinjiang once — as a tourist 15 years ago — Zenz’s research is fundamental to claims that the Chinese government’s actions there amount to a form of genocide, and his findings have been cited by the U.S. government.

Mining data from Chinese sites, he has documented the repression and securitization of the region, the extent of detentions in re-education camps, Uyghur forced labor programs, and most recently, troubling birth control policies. With fluent Chinese and a personality he describes as “dogged,” Zenz has also authenticated large leaks of official documents, including the Karakax List, and analyzed Xi Jinping’s speeches in the recently published Xinjiang Papers for clues about the central government’s policies.

There are numerous other examples of think tanks using open source resources for high-profile projects, including the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRL) which publishes open source research analyzing elections around the world.

Hoover Institution think tanker Amy Zegart penned a new piece entitled "Meet the Nuclear Sleuths Shaking Up US Spycraft."